How FICO Credit Scores Are Calculated
Since we live in an computer-driven society, it should come as no surprise that your ability to repay your mortgage comes down to a single number. The years of paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills can be analyzed, sliced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.
The three reporting agencies use slightly different formulas to build a credit score. The original FICO was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While these methods vary, each agency uses the following to calculate a score:
- Your Credit History - How many years have you had credit?
- Payment History - Do you have any payments later than 30 days?
- Your Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you have, and how much do you owe?
- Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have you had your credit checked for a loan?
These factors are weighted differently depending on which formula the agency uses. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. Credit scores range from 300 to 800. Higher scores are better. Most people getting a mortgage loan these days have a score above 620.
Credit scores make a big difference in your interest rate
Did you know? FICO scores affect more than your ability to get a loan. They also affect your interest rate. Lenders give lower interest rates to individuals with higher scores.
Improving your score
Is there any way to improve your credit score? So called "credit repair" companies advertise quick fixes, but the score is formulated from your lifelong credit history, so you can't turn it around right away. You should, of course, remove any incorrect data from your credit report; this is really the only way to quickly improve your credit score.
Know your FICO
In order to improve your score, you've got to get the reports that the agencies use to build it, and of course, you need the score itself. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the first FICO credit score, sells credit scores on its website: myFICO.com. For a reasonable fee, you can get your FICO from all three reporting agencies, along with your credit report. Also available are helpful information and online tools that can help you analyze what actions might have the greatest impact on your FICO score.
You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once per year from all three agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting it is quick and inexpensive.
Armed with this info, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to get the right mortgage for you.